Alcohol can damage the brain

Alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, is associated with adverse brain outcomes including hippocampal atrophy.

An observational cohort study, published in the BMJ, recorded alcohol intake and cognitive performance in 550 men and women over 30 years, with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the end.

Higher alcohol consumption over the 30-year follow-up was associated with increased odds of hippocampal atrophy that was dose dependent. Those consuming over 30 units a week were at the highest risk compared with abstainers (odds ratio 5.8, 95% confidence interval 1.8 to 18.6; p≤0.001), even those drinking moderately (14–21 units/week) had three times the odds of right sided hippocampal atrophy (3.4, 1.4 to 8.1; p=0.007). There was no protective effect of light drinking (1–7 units/week) over not drinking at all. Higher alcohol use was also associated with differences in corpus callosum microstructure and faster decline in word fluency.

According to the study authors the results support the recent reduction in alcohol limits in UK guidance.

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